I’m Sorry Sioux Falls, But I Don’t Get Mr. Bendo
I have lived in Sioux Falls for 12 years. That's the longest I have ever lived anyplace, except my hometown in western Nebraska. I lived there for 18 years, and that was only because I couldn't drive for most of that time.
Sioux Falls is also my favorite place I've ever lived. It's as small town living city-style. Most everything you need or want is available here. From national chains to local specialties. The parks and bike trial system are second to none. There are so many 24-hour grocery stores I never need to worry about what time it is when I run out of detergent or burrito fixings. The traffic is manageable, the people wonderful, and the snow removal the envy of the upper Midwest.
But, there is one Sioux Falls thing I just don't get, and it separates me from the all the true locals: Mr. Bendo.
For the uninitiated, Mr. Bendo is an eighteen-foot tall fiberglass stature. Bendo made his home in front of the former Buck's Muffler on Cliff Avenue for nearly a half century. This summer he returned to the standing in front of car shops game when he got a gig at Automotive Brake and Exhaust on south Minnesota Avenue.
Señor Bendo came to Sioux Falls in 1965, starting his standing career at a gas station in Downtown Sioux Falls. A short time later, he moved to his long time home on Cliff Avenue. In 2010 the city was dealt a harsh blow when a drunk driver crashed into Bendo. There was even a fundraiser to help repair the giant after that accident. When Buck's closed the bearded behemoth made his way to Minnesotan Avenue.
As the 605's very own Paul Bunyansque mascot made the move to his new home this summer, Sioux Falls caught a mean case Bendo-fever, and I don't get it.
Like the way Pawnee loves the mini-horse Li'l Sebastian on Parks and Recreation, Sioux Fallsites (?) have a passion for this thing that I just don't understand. I'm the Ben Wyatt of Sioux Falls.
I could live here for another 12 years and still not get the same connection life-long Sioux Fallsieans have with the pipe holder. I didn't grow up driving by it with my parents, then doing the same with my kids. It hasn't been a constant in my life.
I get the impulse though. In the park in my hometown there is an old locomotive, train car and caboose on display. Every time you drive on 10th street you pass it. When I visit I'm always excited to see it, and not just because I have a weird train thing. It was there when I went grocery shopping with my mom when I was five. I sat in front of that train and ate candy after I went to the pool when I was 12. I drove past it a thousand times cruising the town when I was 17. And I disappointed my son when we were in town once, he thought we were going to see Thomas the Train, not just some train.
To the outside person, that locomotive display is just a nod to the importance of the rail-road in the town's history. Or just a thing that's in the park. To me it's a constant. Something that, as the world moves and changes, has always been there. A thread through time for my soul. I'd probably get weird if someone crashed into it too.
So, I may not get the specific love for Mr. Bendo in Sioux Falls, I do understand the feelings people have for the mammoth muffler man. Mr. Bendo you are indeed 5000 candles in the wind.